"Thief of Hearts" exemplifies the school of moviemaking that says you don't have to really write or direct a film -- just turn the volume up. The Giorgio Moroderous synth-pop score lurks in this cheaply exploitative movie like the ghouls in the House of Horror, poised to assault you at any moment with its pings, thumps, rumbles, gurgles, claps, clanks, buzzes, wows, whines, groans, fizzes and beeps.

Ah, the sounds of love! Scott Muller (Steven Bauer) is a high-tech heistmeister who burgles houses at 15 grand a pop, but the high life doesn't appeal to him: He gets no kick from cocaine, and, when his sidekick Buddy (David Caruso) fixes him up with a floozy, he diffidently fails to muster his manhood. Mickey Davis (Barbara Williams) has no romance in her life either -- her husband is a workaholic writer of children's stories uninterested in her feelings or her struggling career as an interior designer. Muller's plunder from the Davis home includes Mickey's diaries, of which he becomes an avid reader. Intrigued, he hires Mickey to redecorate his loft, takes her home to see the place, and does a little interior designing of his own.

As the score says: "Take the danger" ping "take the passion" beep "take the pleasure" thump thump thump "thief of HAAAAAAARTS!"

This is the first stint at the helm for writer/director Douglas Day Stewart (he wrote "An Officer and a Gentleman"), and it shows. An insider's glimpse of the filcher's technique can do a lot to draw an audience into a movie, but Stewart seems bored by it, and cinematographer Andrew Laszlo ("The Warriors") performs none of his lurid magic.

Stewart fails at even the rudimentary task of framing the actors' performances. This is a one-joke thriller -- Mickey can't figure out how Muller knows so much about the inner life she confided to her diaries -- so Stewart shoots it as a crude skein of reaction shots, as she screws up her face in puzzlement. In her first screen appearance, Williams, a warm, hazel-eyed Canadian actress, hints that she's better than her material, but Stewart's direction is so ham-handed it's impossible to tell. Sipping champagne on his meticulously tasteful sailboat, Bauer is supposed to be the Hoodlum as Sensitive Man, but he just seems sex-addled; with his lids at half-mast and his tongue lolling out of his slackened cow-catcher jaw, Bauer looks like a great ape caged in a hormone research lab.

The construction is so slapdash because "Thief of Hearts" doesn't aim to interest you -- it's only supposed to turn you on. Stewart's script is riddled with campy double-entendres; close-ups ogle Williams' resilient calves and Bauer's taut abdominals. And when Mickey takes the danger and takes the passion and all the rest of it, the action gets awfully explicit. But it's no surprise when "Thief of Hearts" ends up by denying sexual fantasy and affirming marriage -- this is the kind of leering movie that only a puritan could make.